Sturgis Railroad Depot

Sturgis, Michigan | June 2014

We Moved an Aging, 304-Ton Railroad Depot 3/4 of a Mile.

Sturgis Railroad Depot

Here's Why We Did It

Sturgis, Michigan, a friendly town of 11,000 residents in Southwest Michigan had a plan to move and revitalize its aging Railroad Depot. The Depot was in need of repairs in an out-of-the-way area of town.

Plans called for relocation to the vibrant downtown area for better visibility, where it could be re-purposed and restored as an interactive children’s museum.


  • Built in 1867
  • 41′ x 96′
  • 17″-24″ Thick Masonry Walls
  • 304 Tons
  • 3/4 Mile Move
Skid loader drilling a hole into the foundation to make room for additional supports.
Jack hammering holes for the steel support beams.

Excavation Begins

Wolfe House & Building Movers partnered with the City of Sturgis, the Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society, and the Sturgis Area Community Foundation to plan, design, and execute the move in the middle of the city’s annual Sturgis Fest.

Yellow, steel beams being carefully maneuvered into place under the Sturgis Railroad depot by a skid loader.
A 90-foot long main beam is guided into place under the structure.

Setting the Mains

Main beams, or “mains,” are the solid foundation that the building stands on during all of the relocation work. These custom-fabricated 27″ beams weigh 228 lbs per foot for a total of 20,520 lbs each. They are leveled up and supported on solid oak cribbing under the building.

Sturgis Railroad Depot begging stages of support.
The majority of the crossers are installed. Short “needle beams” are placed between crossers to support the end walls.

Setting the Crossers

Sturgis Railroad Depot resting on steel beams.
Steel chains wrap the entire structure for added stability.


Worker inserting wooden block underneath a red brick and stone structure structure.
Crib piles are inserted at every 6-inch interval as the building is lifted.


A Unified Jacking System lifts the building. The design of this hydraulic system ensures that each jack will go up at exactly the same rate, regardless of the load on any particular jack. A unified lift is essential in preventing any out-of-level condition as the building is raised.

Sturgis Railroad depot lifted on supports with skid loaders excavating underneath.
Clean fill dirt is compacted under the building, leveled, and graded.


After the building has been lifted enough for the Buckingham Power Dolly System to be installed, the old foundations are pushed in and the basement/crawlspace hole is backfilled. Fill dirt is placed and compacted around and under the building.

Worker connecting hydraulic lines on a dolly system.
Dollies are unloaded and installed.


The Buckingham Power Dolly System with SmartSteer® is the most advanced dolly moving platform in the industry. Controlled by a central hydraulic power unit, each dolly is individually controlled, yet works in unison with the other dollies.

Workers preparing supports at a new foundation.
Crib piles are built and steel beams are placed as bridges spanning the new foundation.

Building Bridges

With the Depot now loaded and ready to go, the day is spent preparing the new foundation at the relocation site. Crib piles are built and steel beams are placed as bridges spanning the new foundation. The building will be driven sideways across the foundation.

Workers rearrange blocks as Sturgis railroad depot moves across train tracks.
A gathered crowd enjoys watching as the load is secured for the night partially on and off of the railroad tracks.

Moving Along the Railroad

At 4:00 pm, the wheels begin to turn. The first phase of the move calls for a 300-foot journey down the railroad right-of-way in order to reach the highway. A move road of solid cribbing is built as the depot slowly moves in order to protect the tracks and create a solid surface to travel on.

Sturgis Railroad depot, on a dolly, turning onto a street.
With lines and signals safely lifted out of the way, the Depot begins the turn onto US 12.

Moving On the Streets

Thursday the 26th dawns calm and clear. At 6:00 am the main roads through town are closed and traffic is rerouted. The streets are quiet except for the MDOT crews getting an early start preparing traffic signals for the move.

Sturgis Railroad Depot on a dolly.
At noon, the Depot stops alongside the new foundation, aligned with the end walls.

Turning Into the Lot

Constant measurements and adjustments are made as the depot moves at a crawl of only a few inches per minute.

Depot on dolly moving onto its new foundation.
After breaking for lunch, each Dolly is rotated 90 degrees in preparation to move the Depot onto the new foundation.

Rolling to the Foundation

The Depot goes back on cribbing. Dollies are removed and the Jacking System will lower it to the permanent elevation.